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SpaceX customer switches a satellite launch order to European competitor

SpaceX

The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 17.

(John Raoux / Associated Press)

A SpaceX customer has switched to a European competitor for one satellite launch, citing delays in the Hawthorne space company’s schedule after a September explosion.

Satellite communications firm Inmarsat said Thursday that it has signed a contract with French rocket company Arianespace to launch a satellite for the European Aviation Network, a broadband system comprised of both satellites and ground networks.

That satellite is set to be launched in mid-2017 from French Guiana.

Inmarsat had originally planned to launch the satellite with SpaceX, but said it decided to switch to Arianespace “following the delay in SpaceX’s launch schedule.”

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SpaceX said in a statement Thursday that Inmarsat is a “long-time partner, and we wish them well with their upcoming mission." 

SpaceX has yet to return to flight after one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Though it had hoped to start launching rockets by mid-December, SpaceX recently pushed its first launch date to early January.

The company said Wednesday that it was “working to complete the final steps necessary to safely and reliably return to flight,” and that the new date “allows for additional time to close out vehicle preparations and complete extended testing to help ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to launch.”

Inmarsat had planned to launch the satellite on Falcon Heavy, a heavy-lift rocket currently being developed by SpaceX that has yet to fly. The company also had the option of using a Falcon 9.

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The company declined to comment on the financial terms of its launch agreement with SpaceX.

“SpaceX remains one of Inmarsat’s roster of launch partners,” Inmarsat said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with them going forward.”

Inmarsat said it will launch a different satellite with SpaceX next year.

samantha.masunaga@latimes.com

For more business news, follow me @smasunaga


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